Miss Snark, old salt

Dear Miss Snark,

Let’s say I’m a writer and you’re an agent. In the post James Frey era of candor, which would you rather I be, the forty-something author of a first novel, or the fifty something author of three previous hardly selling YA novels (as well as seven other books of non-fiction).

Or, forgetting the age thing, as if you could, is it easier to sell the first novel of an unknown or the 11th book of a mid-to-bottom of the list journeyman (assuming it's the same book).

Well, I am an agent, and I'm pretty sure you ARE a writer so let's leave off the hypotheticals. None of these questions matter because no matter what I want, you are who you are, and your work is something I want to represent or it isn't.

What you are asking about is packaging, and any agent worth his/her salt can change packaging six days a week and twice on Sundays.

YOUR job is to write the best book you can and find an agent with a salt shaker.


WagerWitch said...


Wanted: One gigantic Salt Shaker to spice up and serve this novel in an appetizing dish. Pepper Grinders need not apply within.

Anonymous said...

It's not so much a question of whether or not this is Novel #1 by Bright-Eyed Newbie or Novel #12 by Bitter Drunken Midlister, but a question of whether or not the novel is a stunner.

The disadvantage of BD Midlister over BE Newbie is that BD Midlister has already proven they aren't pulling in the sales. This makes it harder to convince an agent/editor that #12 is gonna be good.

Does this mean book #12 is doomed?

Not if it's a stunner.

What usually happens if BD Midlister finally figured out how to write a brilliant novel is that it will be published under a pen name.

If this new book by "Nova Novella" crashes and burns, well, BD Midlister is gonna go get even drunker. But if Nova Novella's book does well, lucky her.

I'm of the side of the fence that favours BE Newbie because BE hasn't proven himself a tepid writer. Now, there's a chance that BD's #12 could be the breakout novel, but after eleven not-successes, that chance is extremely slim.

Hope springs eternal, and bad reputations last just as long.

Word verification: old man'll... what? (Who comes up with these things?)

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Anonymous said...

Dear Heidi,
I am the author of the above post. Did I sound bitter? I'm not bitter. I have a very wonderful day job. Anyway, I haven't published 11 novels, only three (all YA) and that was so long ago that the sales figures have probably vanished. So in some ways the slate is clean. Many of my non-fiction works are also out of print, and available for as little as $1.00 on the Internet.
The thing is, if I put out my first adult novel (subtitled: The Stunner) under a pseudonym, how would anyone from the old neighborhood know it was me?
These days, that's probably the only reason I'm still writing.

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